"The next millennium requires a new kind of politics, focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls, more on the needs of the poor and vulnerable than the contributions of the rich and powerful, more on the pursuit of the common good than the demands of special interests. . . .How will we overcome the scandal of a fifth of our preschoolers living in poverty in the richest nation on earth? How will we address the tragedy of more than 30,000 children dying every day of the consequences of hunger, debt, and lack of development around the world?"
Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium
U.S. Catholic Bishops. 1999
Catholic leaders, meeting in Washington, come to a new Congress and a new Administration with an old questionhow are we to treat "the least among us" in our nation and world? At a time of budget surplus and significant prosperity, the moral measure of our society must be how we care for the weak and neglected. The test for this Congress is how its choices touch the life and dignity of all, especially the voiceless and vulnerable.
This is why the Catholic community stands against the violence of abortion, the scourge of hunger, the brutality of armed conflict, and the denial of human rights around the world. This is why we support decent work at decent wages, affordable and accessible health care and housing, quality education based on parental choice, and debt relief for the poorest countries. This is why we are committed to work for the dignity of unborn children, farmers and farmworkers, immigrants and refugees, and even those in prison and on death row.
As Catholic leaders, we bring to Capitol Hill our moral convictions and everyday experience in serving those in need. We welcome the President's new focus on the role of faith-based and community groups in the continuing struggle against poverty. We are sharing our hopes, experiences and concerns with leaders of this effort. We appreciate the affirmation it offers to those working to overcome poverty, addiction, and violence, and the recognition that these efforts cannot substitute for just public and economic policies. Our efforts cannot replace needed government action to address the more than 40 million Americans without health care, the many children who go to bed hungry and the millions of parents who work every day, but cannot provide a decent future for their children. At this time, we come to Capitol Hill to urge special action in four key areas.
- Assist low income families: Congress is about to decide on the dimensions and beneficiaries of a major tax cut. The Administration has proposed doubling the Child Tax Credit from $500 to $1000, which we support. However, unless the credit is "refundable," it will offer no help to the families of over 16 million children (11.5 million of whom are in working families). With a growing surplus, it would be inexcusable to leave out the poorest families and children in America. Therefore we support a Refundable Child Tax Credit which would help lift millions of children out of poverty
In addition, we support efforts to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) so that it provides additional help to 2.1 million low and moderate income working families with three or more children.
Finally, we believe a long overdue increase in the Minimum Wage is another vital step in offering low income workers a share in our country's economic growth.
- Oppose the Death Penalty: There is a growing concern among Americans about our increasing reliance on the death penalty and how it is applied. Following the example of Governor Ryan (R-IL), some states are considering moratoria and many are reviewing their death penalty statutes. We strongly support The Innocence Protection Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Leahy (D-VT), Smith (R-OR), and Collins (R-ME) and by Reps .Delahunt (D-MA) and LaHood (R-IL), as an effort to address some of the most serious problems in capital cases. While the Catholic position is clear -- ending the death penalty -- we believe that measures such as these will dramatically reduce the number of people sentenced to death and are a step toward greater justice in our land.
- Reshape foreign aid: While America has experienced an unprecedented period of economic growth, the overall U.S. foreign aid budget has fallen to one-tenth of one percent of the gross national product, the lowest among all donor nations. We urge development of a foreign aid policy that is specifically oriented to the elimination of extreme poverty. This policy requires a substantial increase in foreign aid funding and priority assistance for sub-Saharan Africa, with particular attention to health and education. The foreign aid authorization bill should include measures for achieving dramatic improvements in primary school enrolment rates, particularly for girls, and decreases in child and infant mortality rates though immunizations, infectious disease programs, and relief from the impact of HIV/AIDS.
- Debt Relief: We continue to support efforts to reduce the external debt of the world's poorest countries. Congress should approve the funding of $375 million required to complete the U.S. commitment to the Cologne debt-relief program.
- Cuba Sanctions: The Catholic Church has long been deeply concerned about Cuba, especially human rights and religious liberty issues. The current embargo hurts only the poor of Cuba, while providing excuses and propaganda for the Castro regime. We welcomed efforts in the last Congress that sought to ease restrictions on trade and travel which were frustrated, despite majority votes in both Houses favoring change. We urge support for new efforts to rescind the restrictive measures of the FY 2001 Agriculture Appropriations bill that tighten restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba.
For more information contact: United States Catholic Conference Department of Social Development & World Peace, (202) 431-3180 or firstname.lastname@example.org